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NI ministers to discuss final details of lockdown exit strategy

By PA News

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Stormont ministers will convene on Monday to discuss final details of Northern Ireland’s lockdown exit strategy.

There is uncertainty whether the plan also will be made public on Monday – as ministers had originally intended – or if its publication will be pushed back until later in the week.

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill plan to unveil the strategy on the floor of the Stormont Assembly when it is ready.

Ministers have already made clear the blueprint will be led by data, not dates.

First Minister Arlene Foster (right) and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill (Presseye/PA)
First Minister Arlene Foster (right) and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill (Presseye/PA)

The plan is likely to outline the sequence in which current lockdown restrictions will lift, with moves taken when the public health situation allows.

Mrs Foster has said the devolved executive will review the level of restrictions every three weeks.

Northern Ireland’s current lockdown and accompanying stay-at-home message is in place until April 1. Ministers are due to review that policy on March 18.

The executive has already outlined plans for a phased return of face-to-face learning at schools in Northern Ireland.

Only vulnerable children and those of key workers have been attending classes in mainstream schools since January.

P1 to P3 primary school children will return to school on March 8, and on March 22 secondary school children in key exam years – years 12-14 – will go back to class.

On that same date, the P1 to P3s are currently due to revert to home learning for one week ahead of the Easter holidays – to mitigate the impact on infection rates of the secondary school cohort’s return.

However, officials from the departments of health and education were tasked last week to examine that aspect of the plan and Mrs Foster has expressed hope that those primary pupils will ultimately be able to remain in school that week.

No date has so far been given for the return of the wider school population.

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